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Sunday, December 27, 2009


Some of my fondest memories of childhood are spending Saturdays at my grandma's in Bukit Ho Swee. My aunts and cousins all gathered for the lunch my grandma would make and while the adults caught up with each other on their week, my cousins and I indulged in the kind of carefree whimsy and mischief I can only hope Sophie will be able to enjoy with her cousins one day. The image of my grandma looms large in these memories- she of that kind face and doting disposition. I remember her constant laughter, perfectly coiffed hair, and gentle affection for all her grandchildren. These days, as she ages into her eighties, she doesn't always remember us all anymore. Over the past six years, seeing her only once or twice a year constantly reminds me how old she now is- her body becoming thinner and more frail, her posture and gait weakening. But the light and laughter are not gone from her eyes. Nor is the desire to painstakingly maintain her beautiful perm every week. I visited her with Sophie yesterday and while she probably doesn't remember me very well, and I had to tell her several times that Sophie's a girl and not a boy, she responded to Sophie the same way I remember her looking at me when I was a child- always with a smile. She could even say that Sophie looks just like Jude, no mean feat for someone who sometimes can't recognize her children's faces...

I'm glad Sophie got to meet her great-grandmother. It was a beautiful visit, seeing the youngest member of the family meet the oldest. It was also a little sad, looking at how much my grandma has aged while Sophie's little life has only just begun. I know how trite and hackneyed it is to evoke the whole circle of life thing but it was hard not to think that as I watched my 20-week old daughter and 87 year old grandmother in the same room.

When Sophie's older, I'll remind her of her great-grandma. And how much she loved me. I will tell her how special a grandmother's love is and impart to her one of life's greatest wisdoms I learned from her- a woman should always take care of her hair...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My first Christmas...

was so very exciting indeed! I was told that there would be presents and I could barely contain my anticipation! See me here getting ready for the big reveal :)

My first Christmas present was a cool new toy from Daddy and Mama to help me practice my skills with shapes.

I had to chew it first to make sure it was tasty, i.e. quality control.

Many people I had never met before were really happy to see me. Daddy and Mama tells me that they're family. I really like them coz I got plenty of hugs and kisses all round :)

See how much love I'm getting?

I must be a really lucky little girl. I didn't just get many presents this Christmas but also got showered tons of good loving from everyone around me. It made the 27-hour flight to this very hot country and the eczema that was exploding all over my body so worth it!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas too!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breakfast Club

[In another time, this post would have been accompanied by relevant photos. But I seem to have stopped taking pictures of food altogether and almost exclusively take photos of Sophie, so tough...]

Back in Ann Arbor, my typical breakfasts (yes, plural- a combination of Sophie's early wake-up time and breastfeeding makes me ravenous in the morning and I usually have two breakfasts before noon...) involve some combination of bagel/cream cheese, cereal, toast/jam/peanut butter, or oatmeal. That fills me up pretty well and one breakfast takes me from 7.30 to about 10.00, and the other from 10.00 till whenever lunch is. Breakfast in Singapore, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game altogether. There are few other countries in the world where grease is an almost requisite ingredients in the nation's favorite breakfast foods. Since we've been home, my first meal of the day has consisted of:
Tuesday: Fried beehoon (rice vermicelli) and chai tow kway (fried carrot cake, a.k.a. Greasebomb Central)
Wednesday: Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with fried fish and otak)
Thursday: 2 pieces of savory bread richly and generously studded with dried pork jerky (bah-kwa)
Friday: Wonton mee (with what I'm sure was a bucketful of lard)
Saturday: Prawn mee soup, rice porridge, boiled chicken, and wonton soup

I'm telling myself that as a nursing mother, the exponential increase in my caloric intake is forgivable and perhaps necessary (heh...) and that I've lost all my pregnancy weight plus two pounds. Although I suspect by the end of this trip, I may not be able to say that anymore... ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One of the three of us does not have jetlag

And it's neither Jude nor I. Believe it or not, Sophie's internal clock pretty much re-calibrated itself and she's already back to her regular schedule since Day 2. Her Daddy & Mama on the other hand are still groggy by 7pm and up and about at 4 in the morning checking mail and uploading photos. She's clearly made of sterner stuff than us both...

Which is also why I think the flight home went better than we expected. Oh, there were the shrieks at take-off and landing despite my dutiful attempts to nurse her, and that one time during the Detroit-Tokyo leg when she decided to time a fuss moment with meal time and Jude and I had to maneuver a Cirque du Soleil while trying to finish our very dismal teriyaki chicken with fried rice while not squirting cocktail sauce all over each other and Sophie. Yes, we did have the bassinet for both legs of the journey, but No, our daughter did not take to them very well. She slept for about an hour in the first, and barely at all in the second. Basically, for the entire time between Tokyo and Singapore, Sophie slept in "Mama's Arm" Class and there was barely any feeling left between by left shoulder and elbow by the time we landed. But honestly, Sophie did good and only cried probably about 30 mins spread across the entire 21-hour journey, which I guess is more than can be expected for a child who has the lungs of Kiri Te Kanawa and isn't afraid to let you know.

I have to say though that landing in Changi Airport this time has got to be the most exhilarating of the many times I've done so in the past 6 years. Not only was the family jumping for joy at first sight of Sophie, our brother-in-law, Piao, was armed with his fancy camera, documenting each emotion, from anticipation to delight. It's been wonderful being home and just watching everyone from Jude's and my parents, to my grandparents fall in love with Sophie. Our little girl has everyone wrapped around her teeny little finger and with just one smile and gurgle from her, in my dad's words, "...the heart just melts" :)

1. The grandparents wait in anticipation, 2. Sophie has been spotted!, 3. Through the looking glass, 4. IMG_7055, 5. Smothered with love, 6. IMG_7080, 7. It was 2.30 in the morning and the whole house was up, 8. Sam's first diapering experience, 9. Auntie Sam LOVES Sophie!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Looking at the way our daughter is going to town with that burp cloth, you'd think we were depriving her of real food.

And please note that the little yelp she lets out in the beginning of the video is just a modest 1% of what she's really capable of- passengers on NW0341 and NW0321, you've been duly forewarned. Brace yourselves...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Counting down to home #2

Things to do before we leave:
1) Return library books
2) Clean house (don't ask- I just feel like we can't leave behind a dirty house.)
3) Do laundry. Just so we have clean clothes to bring home and not have soiled clothes festering for a month.
4) Empty Diaper Genie (what's worse than festering soiled clothes? Festering soiled diapers.)
5) Hold mail
6) Suspend NYT Sunday Edition
7) Clear kitchen of anything perishable (note to self: must finish the container of fresh peanut butter, two heads of romaine lettuce, and packet of Havarti cheese. Not necessarily together.)
8) Download NVivo off our home server so I can do some data coding and analysis for my dissertation at home.
9) Unplug all electrical appliances (who knows what kind of craziness might happen from power outages during winter storms)
10) Find time to pack...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Counting down to home #1

We're counting down 4 days to our flight home, and 5-half days to actually being home. I think we're going to have to start packing *tomorrow* if we want to be ready in time- it's not like we can set aside an hour randomly to pack anymore, plus there's so much of Sophie's things to pack that I'm sure I'm going to forget something if we do this on Saturday. We're really looking forward to the month-long stay at home; the flight though, we're not so sure. On the one hand, I have visions of Sophie terrorizing everyone on NW0341 for hours with her screams so much that we'll need to disembark under protection or risk having used air-sickness bags thrown at us; on the other, I'm praying she'll surprise us and sleep like a dream through most of the two flights (13 hours + 7 hours). Maybe the vibrations on the plane will feel like her bouncer- *sigh* one can only hope... We've decided we're going to dress her up in her cutest outfit possible and pray that the people in the seats next to and behind us, and the flight attendants will fall in love with her before she goes all Tasmanian Devil on us.

Essentials to pack for the flight (or so I've been told- thanks Dot!):
1) Some kind of infant carrier. Because we're going to have to put Sophie's brace on at some point during the flight, it's going to have to be the Bjorn (although we're bring both the Ergo and Moby home too- we like them better)
2) Surprise toy(s). Apparently, the element of surprise will grab Sophie's attention enough to distract her for at least a while)
3) Comfort toy(s). For when the novelty of the surprise toy wears off and she wants something familiar.
4) 2 changes of clothes. For those poop-tastic moments she's having much of lately.
5) As many diapers as our Timbuk2 bag can hold (see #4)
6) My Bebe au Lait nursing cover. I suspect I'm going to have to feed her often just to keep her sucking and relieve the pressure on her ears.
7) Several pacifiers. See #6.
6) Nothing for ourselves because we're going to be a) too busy tending to her to read/ do puzzles/ work/ play with the Nintendo DS; and b) gratefullly sleeping when we're not doing a).
7) A zen attitude and as calm a disposition as possible. We don't want any crankiness to rub off on Sophie!

Wish us luck!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Rockabye baby

So- we've been trying out a new sleep program (or programs actually) with Sophie starting last week. And it's been a little trying. For the past 2 months or so, Sophie's only ever slept in her bouncer, even at nights. Something about the enclosed space and micro-vibrations really calmed and soothed her through her naps and night-sleep. She was actually sleeping well in her crib from birth but sometime in Month 2, she just refused to take to it and would cry for hours between 10.00 and midnight. We tried the Moby Wrap which worked really well until she moved to wearing the brace after her casts and then we were stumped again. We didn't really think about putting her in the bouncer at first because she didn't like it much when she was younger, but one nap, out of desperation, I put her in it, tucked a blanket around her, turned on the vibration, and voila!, she fell right asleep! It was like magic, and we were so proud of ourselves. While other parents were complaining about sleepless nights, not being able to get anything done, and their child waking up every hour, as long as she was in her bouncer, Sophie slept like an angel, from 8.30 to 7.30, waking up only once or twice to feed. Sometimes, I even had to check in on her just to make sure she was OK because she was sleeping so very soundly. Jude and I had time at night to do work, catch up with each other on our day, watch recorded episodes of Glee and Flashforward. All was good...

But as with all feelings of smugness, karma's a b*tch and payback was harsh... :( Sophie's finally outgrown the bouncer- she's getting to big for it, and her brace has started to tear a whole in the fabric from all the thrashing she does. Now what? Plus the impending trip home also means that Sophie needs to learn how to sleep motionlessly. So we figured this is about as good a time as any to transition her to the crib. We're not doing any kind of strict sleep training- Sophie's too young for that. But we are trying to get her to learn to self-soothe to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of nap or night-sleep, and also to get used to the crib. The past 3 or 4 days has had it's ups and downs- Sophie takes a really nice, long morning nap in the crib without fussing very much, but things just get progressing harder through the day, with the afternoon naps being really tricky. And don't even get me started on the nights... One thing's for sure: our daughter loves to cry. As in has a deep, elemental, and profound love for the very act of crying. And she's gotten good at it too. We're talking a loud, piercing, for-all-that-is-good-and-holy-woe-is-me-the-earth-is-ending mother of all cries. I'm surprised the neighbors haven't called child protective services on us yet because if I were them, I'd be convinced someone was torturing the poor babe from the sounds of her wails. And for a barely 4 month old, boy does out daughter have stamina. She can go on for hours if you let her. At least we know her lungs and vocal chords are getting a good workout...

Tonight, we're trying something new (again...)- having me put her to sleep in my arms and sleeping with her for a while in our bed first. She's sound asleep right now and we'll move her to her crib later in the night. Hopefully, being surrounded by our scent in the bed will comfort her until she's deep in sleep. Despite what it seems, sleeping does not come easy to babies- the need to does, but the act of falling and staying asleep is a harder thing to do for them. It's a work in progress, and for now, we're all learning...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Happy feet!

After 2 and a half months of wearing the brace for 23 hours a day, we got the OK from Dr. Caird yesterday for Sophie to move to nighttime-only wear!! Jude and I were hopeful before the appointment but didn't want to bring it up- the possibility of a relapse was too terrifying so we agreed to defer to whatever Dr. Caird's professional opinion would be. And so when she suggested that we move to nighttime-only without our prodding, we were only too happy for words :) All that obsessive shoe-tying and re-tying was worth it, as was all that massaging during that one hour a day when Sophie had her foot free. Dr. Caird looked for suppleness and dorsiflexion (which is the movement which decreases the angle between the foot and the leg, so that the toes are brought closer to the shin) and on both counts, Sophie's doing superbly!

We don't want to stop being vigilant about her foot though so we decided that while we'll have her foot free for most of the day (so her left foot can catch up to her right, and to encourage her gross motor development), there will be days when we'll leave it on longer than others just in case. I've read too many stories of non-compliant parents whose children had to then start the whole process again from casting, and that would just be too devastating for us to even imagine... So while we're really ecstatic at Sophie's progress, we don't want to be complacent either.

As for the little trooper- see how happy she was to do tummy-time today without her brace :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My first Thanksgiving...

1. Ursus curious about Sophie, 2. Showing Sophie the outside world, 3. Serene's Whole Wheat Stuffing with Pancetta, Chestnuts, and Parmesan, 4. A deep fried turkey is a beautiful thing, 5. Family Portrait Thanksgiving 09, 6. Jude grilling the scallops, 7. Rick & Emilee, 8. Serene's plate doth overfloweth ..., 9. Can I have some turkey too ... please?

...was fun! I didn't really know what Daddy, Mama, and their friends were celebrating though. There was just a lot of eating and many dogs in a house I had never been to. So I guess Thanksgiving is about dogs and food? I liked the dogs (Kumo, Ursus, Emmet, & Asher)- it was the first time I had seen them and they seemed to like me- sniffing me like I was the most interesting thing in the world (which I am, I know...). And the smells of all the cooking that was going on made me a little sad- all I got was Mama's milk, which is delicious, but from the smell of things, not as delicious as deep-fried turkey and all the other yummy stuff I saw on Mama and Daddy's plate. I really wanted some to try-- see bottom right photo-- but everyone ignored my plaintive expressions of need :(

I also saw Auntie Emilee and Uncle Rick again. They were the first of Daddy and Mama's friends to see me when they visited at the hospital. I like Uncle Rick. He's got nice hair. I shamelessly flirted with him all through Thanksgiving dinner by giving him lots of smiles. And then there was Auntie Beth, Auntie Emilee's sister. They both have such nice smiles- and they think I'm cute. So I really like them too :)

I think I did good on my first full-day social soiree- Mama and Daddy were clever enough to time the hour-long drive up to Haslett (20 minutes from East Lansing) with my morning nap; they brought my bouncer along so I could take naps in the guest bedroom; and they brought my PJs so that they could get me ready for bedtime there and then put me to sleep before driving home. My parents are so smart. I love them so much... :)

I hope everyone in the U.S. had a good Thanksgiving! Did you do much eating and have many dogs over at your house too?